Another competition season has finished. My calf injury in November turned out to be a torn calf, which kept me off the track until the end of 2011. Some physiotherapy and a specific exercise regime got me back in form for the start of 2012, with the result I only missed the competition in December. With the bulk of the season ahead, I got stuck into training with the rest of the team.
The year started with me doing my usual ladder events, plus assisting the "A" side in a couple of events, with the occasional dry event in between. However, with a coaching change in mid February, things started to change. The coaching change came about because we actually have two teams, and it was decided that it would be best for each team to have their own dedicated coach. With our new coach for the "C" team, some changes came about. While I retained my specialist role on the ladder, I started to move into new roles, most notably the "pole", which is the position on the front of the cart, which is responsible for steering, as well as a significant amount of the power down the track. During the season, we also ran an additional event, known as the "Y8" (or more formally, the Hose, Ladder and Y coupling practice for 8 competitors). This is the longest and most complex event, but it's also a fun one to run. With the addition of the Y8, there is now only one event we don't run, which is the 6 person event. We are hoping to run this one next season. Results were mixed through the season, with a couple of placings (mostly in the hose and ladder event) at a couple of competitions.
The State Championships were held in Mooroopna, 175km north of Melbourne on the Labor Day long weekend (March 10-12). I had positions in 6 events.
First up was the ladder race. This is a simple straight sprint (25 yards) to the bottom of the ladder, then up the ladder to the top of the staging, 20 feet above the ground (the original imperial measurements are still used, though expressed in metric these days). I narrowly missed getting through my heat. Here's a video of my heat. I'm on the right in the light blue.
In the afternoon, was the C section 4s. This involves 4 people running down with a standpipe and the cart (which is loaded with hose) down the track. One person takes the standpipe an sets it in the hydrant plug in the track, while the other 3 get the cart down the track, couple the hose on and hit the target. My role was the pole, which is where I have to pick up the front of the cart, pull it down the track, and steer. This is a very intense role, as it's a sprint with the cart in tow. For the first part, there is assistance from the other two on the back, but they drop off one to perform their specific roles. We got through the first round heat, but not the second round. However, our times were the two best times we've had all season, so we were still pleased with the outcome.
On the second day, my first event was the pumper and ladder. In this event, 5 people work together to draw water from a hydrant using a pumper (otherwise known as a fire engine), then deliver that water to two hoses - one on the ground, and one up the 20 foot ladder. As I have done for over a year, I ran the ladder position. I ran up to the back of the pumper, coupled my hose to the delivery outlet on the back of the truck, then placed the branch into my ladder harness and ran up the ladder to strike my target on top. I had one of my smoothest runs ever, and made it up with plenty of time. Our time was on a par with the rest of the season, but we were running with a different lineup than we had used all year, so the result was still good.
That afternoon we had the Y8. This was only the third time we've run this event at a competition, the first time being only 4 weeks earlier! :) The Y8 is one of the most complex events, involving a team of 8 competitors, plus an extra one to "catch" the cart at the end of the track. The team must work together to get water from a hydrant and then strike 3 targets in order - 2 near ground level over the track (90 and 180 feet from the hydrant), and the third up the ladder. The order is to strike the first target at 90 feet, then couple a second length of hose and strike the second target at 180 feet. Finally, the first two lengths are uncoupled, a "Y" dividing piece is inserted in between, so a third length can be run up the ladder for the third target. In this event, I started on the pole, hauling and guiding the cart around the hydrant, then towards the second target. Near the second target I removed my branch from its holder and guided the cart to the catcher, who took it off me and controlled it for the rest of the run. I then ran to the end of the third length of hose, coupled on the branch (still in my hand!) and ran down to the guy waiting on the ladder. I then placed the end of the hose into his harness, so he could climb, then assisted him by guiding the host up beside the ladder. Our time was not bad, given our lack of experience in this event, and it being the first time we had run it with this exact team arrangement. We actually managed to finish not too far outside a placing. :)
Day 3, the final day, and again I had two events to compete in. The first was the ladder 5s, which I have been running for a while now. This event is similar to the 4s above, except there are 5 people in the team, and the target is on the ladder staging. I ran in the ladder position, where I take my coupling and branch off the cart, put them together and then place them into my ladder harness. From there it's a sprint down the track (total distance from the start is approximately 100 metres) to the ladder, climb the ladder and hit the target. We had a problem with the cart at the start, which made it more difficult to get my branch off its holder. This caused a delay in the run, but despite this, we still managed one of our best times for the season.
In the afternoon, I had the Champion 4s. This event is identical to the C section 4s, except that we compete against every team at the competition, instead of only those in our section. Our lineup was slightly different, but I ran the pole, just as I did in the 4s 2 days before. We got through the first heat, but not the second time around. I was happy with my performance, being able to keep up with our opposition in the heats. :)
As like last year, the State Championships were an awesome weekend, the only downer being that it marks the end of the season, and it's now 9 months until the start of next season.